When you are an owner of an ATV, your vehicle will encounter many problems. Some may simply be something that causes you to slow down when you’re riding or a minor inconvenience, some might make your vehicle totally useless. Which is more or less what a starter problem does to your ATV.

If you are unable to start your Polaris Sportsman, there are a number of problems that could be causing that, something from an oil change to swapping out batteries could be the solution. But before acting hastily, a little diagnosis is best.

Also read: Are Polaris ATVs Reliable, Check Your Model Here!

polaris Sportsman Starter Problems

Join our free Facebook group and ask your question there. We promise you, you’ll get an answer from one of our team members or group members. Join the group here!

1. Battery Problems 

The first thing you might want to check if your Polaris Sportsman doesn’t start when you turn the key would be the battery. Not only is it one of the easiest to access out of most of the other problems, but it is also possibly one of the worst-case scenarios. So knocking that out of the question will surely ease your mind. 

If your engine sputters or if your engine suddenly stops or if you experience sudden power loss and then there is the case of it not starting at all, it would all suggest that the culprit is a bad battery. If you’ve equipped aftermarket electrical accessories that draw power from your battery, it could very well be the cause of your Sportsman starter problem. Your battery can barely power your vitals, and the moment you overload with aftermarket accessories, your battery will fail.

The easiest way to determine if your Polaris Sportsman battery is doing good is to conduct a simple voltage test. All you need to do is find out the recommended voltage output of your sportsman model and hook up the voltage meter.

You have to first take the reading with the ATV idle both with lights on and off, then take another reading while it’s at about 3000 rpm. Cross-reference with recommended voltage output and voilà! You should be able to find out how your battery is performing.

If it does turn out bad, you will need to replace your battery with an aftermarket battery. You should be able to get a good enough replacement in the range of $150 to $200, but if you want to opt for a more powerful battery, it will cost you about $300. Remember, if you are still on the warranty, you can go to your nearest Polaris dealership and get it swapped out.

2. Bad Starter

If you are buffeted by ear-screeching rackets every time you try to get your ATV to turn over, then the possible problem is a bad starter. An owner said:

“2013 Sportsman 500. New battery, but won’t start. Just a loud, obnoxious sound. Assuming it’s a starter problem. Even tried jumping with my quick start and won’t turn over.”

This is also a pricey piece to replace, so seeking professional advice on whatever your starter problem is, is not a bad idea. A new starter can cost somewhere from $180 to $400 depending on your model and make. 

Before blaming anything on the starter, it’s best you check the wires first, just in case. If the problem is the starter, then your schedule just got busier. It’s going to take you a few hours to switch out your starter. One of the best ways to do this is to attack it from the left footrest, remove the cover there and go a little deeper, and you’ll get to the CVT. You will need some special tools to get through the outer CVT casing, but the secondary should be easy and that’s it. All you have to do is switch the starter and piece it back together. 

3. Backfiring 

If you can’t start your ATV and hear the engine starting and then stopping, followed by a few loud claps from your exhaust, then there would be a good chance that the spark plug has worn off.

Before you check your spark plug, it’s better if you leave your vehicle out for a little while since this also happens when your vehicle is flooded, so it’s best to eliminate that before you move on to the solenoid.

“Hi, I have a brand-new sportsman. I’m only on my second tank of gas, less than 200 hours on the unit. I have already had to replace the spark plug once. It was severely fouled up. I am less than 5 hours into the new plug and already fouled up bad.
It smells like unburnt fuel on a start-up and pops, hesitates, and dies. Seems to me like the EFI is over-fueling. Has anyone else had problems like this? It was so bad this morning it was backfiring terrible and died. Now it won’t restart at all.”

Spark plugs are considered consumable items since they often wear and need replacement. It is fairly easy to replace one, and they usually only cost about $10 to $15. If the spark plug isn’t what’s wrong, it might be the flywheel timing key. This is also known as a rocket key.

The rocket key of your Polaris Sportsman plays an essential part in your vehicle’s ignition. And if that is damaged, the ignition timing of your ATV goes off instantly. You can easily replace one at home, though it is not that expensive. You may need a few YouTube videos to guide you. 

The flywheel is located on the crankshaft, meaning you have to take that off and access the flywheel, you will need a special tool called a flywheel puller to do this, but once you take apart the flywheel, just remove the broken parts of the old timing key, and install the new one and piece it back together.

4. Inability To Start At Low Temperatures 

One of the small and overlooked issues when it comes to starter problems is actually the temperature. It is common for ATVs to not start in cold temperatures. This is caused by the engine oil used, as it might not be suitable for the weather.

People don’t notice, but in cold climates, you need engine oil with low viscosity and in hot climates, you will need engine oil with high viscosity. If you take it to your dealer, they would advise you to use a different engine oil and this will set it up so that it can work in low temperatures.

This isn’t exactly a hard thing to do or a hard fix, but it is overlooked when you are searching for starter problems. So making sure you have the correct engine oil for the temperature is always a good thing to do.

If you do have the wrong engine oil on your Sportsman, you better drain the oil and pour in new engine oil with the right viscosity. 

5. Buzzing When Trying To Start

You might keep hearing a rather annoying buzzing noise every time you try to start your vehicle. This means the buzzing noise is probably coming from the solenoid. This doesn’t necessarily mean the solenoid has gone bad.

This usually happens when there is not enough power reaching the solenoid. First, you should check the voltage near the solenoid and near the battery’s output, if both are lower than usual, it may be because of a bad battery, and you’ll have to follow the steps mentioned earlier and find a solution for your weak battery. 

If that is not the case and the readings are lower near the solenoid, that means there’s a problem with the wiring.  If you have worked on the wiring of your ATV, then the most probable cause is a loose connection, which should be easy once you find the problem wire. Or there could have been a carbon build-up on the solenoid’s terminals due to sparking. If that’s the case, a good cleaning will do the job.

If the problem is with the wiring, it will cost you next to nothing to get it fixed, but it will take time to figure out where the problem is in all the wiring.